Real Scottish Weddings - Harburn Barn

October 17, 2023

Just before eight in the morning of her wedding, I texted Clio.

"It's snowing!"

"It's snowing here too!" she replied instantly.

The excitement was unreal. A winter wedding in Scotland - WITH SNOW.

Snow was forecasted, but this was beyond anything I expected. When I woke at 5am to get ready, it was dark but the streets were clear. Inside of twenty minutes my road was carpeted in a thick coat of white. Even as I packed my gear into the car and set off, the flakes were coming in thick and fast - a true blizzard was forming.      

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It was to the boys that I'd be heading to first.

Ross and his band of merry men were enjoying a relaxed morning of banter and alcohol at the Coach House when I arrived, popping open a magnum bottle of prosecco to get the day's celebrations started.

With no one ready, and indeed two groomsmen fighting over an ironing board, I quickly got to work on some details shots.

"Did you crack open this whisky last night?" I asked.

"Actually, just before you arrived," a groomsmen replied.

I'll let you decide if the bottle is half full or half empty!

When Ross returned in his kilt and tweed waistcoat, he seemed a little nervous.

As much as the mid-morning banter with his mates was distracting him, you could tell that he just wanted to be up at the barn already, standing in front of the love of his life Clio saying "I do."  

Leaving the boys to their kilt pins and prosecco, I headed up to the barn itself. The snowfall hadn't abated at all, and seeing a venue that I associated so much with golden summer days in snow was awesome to say the least.

It had a beautiful glow to it, bright and warming despite the sub zero temperatures.

Snow clouds brooding above, it felt as if we were inside our own snow globe - cut off from the rest of the world in our idyllic wintry bubble.

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Though Harburn Barn needs little in the way of decoration with its rustic, high vaulted ceilings and warm ambience, one of Clio's Best Men Martin was inside making the ceremony extra cosy with scented candles and fairy lights; the chairs lined up, all set for guests to take their seats and for the ceremony to begin.

Inside the cosy Haymains cottage that is adjacent to Harburn Barn, the fabulous Karen Bowen Makeup was already hard at work - and had been since before dawn!

Clio waltzed into the kitchen to greet me, sipping fizz from the most ornate wine glass. She was simply glowing with happiness and excitement.    

One of the perks of my job is seeing all the beautiful outfits that my couples have chosen for their big day. But Clio upped the game with not one but two stunning dresses!

The sleeveless number would be for the ceremony and drinks reception, while she'd slip on the second one for the night's dancing to party the night away in.

With the ceremony fast approaching and details shots done, I left Clio to enjoy a few minutes alone with her bridesmaids and some fizz before she got into her dress.

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One of the perks of my job is seeing all the beautiful outfits that my couples have chosen for their big day. But Clio upped the game with not one but two stunning dresses!

The sleeveless number would be for the ceremony and drinks reception, while she'd slip on the second one for the night's dancing to party the night away in.

With the ceremony fast approaching and details shots done, I left Clio to enjoy a few minutes alone with her bridesmaids and some fizz before she got into her dress.

As a wedding photographer, I never want my couples to feel rushed into getting ready. This part of the day is as equally important as the drinks reception or first dance and in the craziness of morning hair & make up, it can be difficult to find a moment where you are just alone with your best friends. So take ten minutes to sit back with your girls and absorb all the emotions and anticipation of your wedding day.

By this point the boys had arrived at the barn - now fully dressed in kilts and smiles.

As Clio took a few deep, calming breaths inside, I lined up Ross and his groomsmen for some fun, informal shots in the snow. Fortunately the groomsmen were very keen to lift Ross into the air - though less so when I suggested they throw him in it! Can't think why?!

It was also an opportunity to have some shots with just Ross and his Best Man Stewart as they took some time away from everyone else to acknowledge the occasion in a hug and a few laughs.

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Back in the cottage, it was time for Clio to take the final step in her transformation from fiancé to bride. The cottage seemed for the first time that day quiet and still as Clio's other Best Man Rich carefully zipped up the back of her first wedding dress. Pride was beaming from his face - and such an honour it was to be there for his friend in this moment.

As a photographer, this is a special part of the day for me. All those first reactions during first looks, the finishing touches and those brilliant, beaming smiles.

When Clio's bridesmaids saw her for the first time - their expressions were priceless.

As they opened their eyes more than just a gorgeous bride in a beautiful dress stepped forward, but a best friend with whom they shared so many memories.  They must've remembered all those treasured moments in a friendship - from the amazing highs of nights out, girl chat and parties through to emotional lows where the bonds of friendship are truly sealed.

Dress reveals are about so much more than your awesome fashion choices: they are about the journey you took together to get to this precious, unrepeatable moment in time.                

And then, in her brilliant forest green shoes, it was time for Clio to leave the cottage and venture across the snow to meet the love of her life at the end of the aisle.      

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The Ceremony

First to arrive down the aisle was Clio & Ross's furbaby Kipling - who was in charge of the ring delivery. Walked down the aisle by Rich, Kipling was very much a good boy for his pawrents!

As the bridal party made their entrance, Ross nervously waited for a glimpse of his bride. Arm in arm with her Dad, Clio was radiant and as her eyes met Ross's, neither could contain their emotions any longer - and they even stole a cheeky kiss at the top of the aisle.

They made their ceremony truly their own - full of love, laughter, emotion and fun. From giggles to wonderful anecdotes on how they first met and fell in love through to emotional readings from the groom's sister Rach and Clio's school friend Han and to add a splash of tradition, they also had a handfasting. It was the perfect ceremony to reflect the love Clio & Ross have not just for each other, but the loved ones they'd invited to be a part of their celebrations.

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And with rings and vows exchanged, they were finally married and embraced each other in a tender, loving first kiss. With the ceremony over, they made their exit into a snowy confetti throw. Their cheeks must have been aching from all the smiling as their friends & family pelted them with dried flowers along the path outside the barn.

Snow continued to fall all afternoon, throughout the drinks reception and even as we stepped out for family & wedding party group shots. It was simply magical. All the guests were in high spirits - laughing, joking - the banter was flowing just as much as the wine.

And when it came time for couples portraits, we had the best lighting. As Clio & Ross held each other, there was a soft glow around them - partly their radiating happiness, partly the gorgeous softbox effect from the snow.

By the time we arrived back at the barn the light was tinted with golden hues - sunset was approaching and blessed their skin in subtle warmth. My favourite time of day for photography.

I could have photographed these two excitable kids for hours - but for the moment it was time to return them to their guests.

Harburn Barn has so many stunning spots for newlywed portraits, but in the snow the opportunities seemed infinite!

A couple walk through confetti on their wedding day in snow

Snowy December Wedding? Break out the BBQ!

Piped in by Ross's father, the happy couple took a moment to soak in the atmosphere of their dining setup. Twinkle lights to cosy candles, and all their loved ones in a single room to celebrate them. The Father of the Bride's speech was filled with pride and love for his wonderful daughter, touching on some interesting anecdotes of his introduction to Ross!  And when Clio got up to welcome everyone the room echoed with laughter as she spoke of the pivotal role tequila slammers played in her first meeting with Ross and of spontaneous dancing during those early lockdown days.

And what better meal to serve on a snowy December day than a BBQ? I'm sure Regis Catering thought they were absolutely nuts - but what a feast they delivered, if a little seasonally off-piste!

With the shortest day of the year almost upon us, daylight was fading fast and I just loved how onboard Clio & Ross were when I originally suggested we could nip out during their meal for some golden hour couples shots.

With the outdoor lights twinkling in the background, they were naturals in front of the camera - effortlessly in love and ecstatically happy.

How many couples out there can say they danced in the snow on their wedding day?

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Sparkling in the Moonlight

A winter twilight is awesome in its own right - but combined with a perfect covering of snow, the most beautiful couple in love and their crazy friends - well, you get something truly special.

The garden was glowing even before we lit the sparklers. We had so much fun racing against time to get all the sparklers lit at once, then diving into different positions to make the most of it all. I cannot get over those expressions of pure joy on everyone's faces - this is what candid photography is all about!

(I'd also like to take this time to ask Martin to never again try to light 15 sparklers at once... or incidentally anything that produces green flame!)

Back in the warmth of the barn, the evening continued with the Best Man and Best Woman speeches with Stewart & Ness - both filled with sentimentality, love and hilarity. But it was Ross's speech that had the room in tears as he spoke of his late mum, his close, unbreakable bond with his sister and dad and his utter devotion and love for Clio. I doubt there was a dry eye left in the barn.

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Backlit Magic

As darkness fell on Harburn Barn, I set up what would be some of my favourite shots of the day. The snow was heavier than it had been all day, glistening in the flash light and soft amber glow from the festivities inside.

I'm not sure Clio & Ross had any clue as to what I was envisioning for these shots, but I can't thank them enough for trusting me with their photography.

Being able to create images like these for such a warm, happy and wonderful couple genuinely makes this the best job in the world.

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As David Bowie said, "Let's Dance!"

Clio & Ross didn't want to kick off their evening reception with a typical first dance - instead,  saving that momentous moment for much later in the evening when the party vibe was in full swing.

With a twirl and a polka, the Gay Gordons started off their Ceilidh to much chaos and confusion. Those of us who had these dances drilled into us at school smugly took to the floor, while Clio's side opened their hearts to the ensuing madness. Old, young,  Scots or not, there's nothing like a good Ceilidh to bring everyone together.

And while many of the guests may have had muscle memory for the Canadian Barn dance, they weren't immune to the sheer panic of turning around to find your partner has disappeared in a sea of swinging hands and shuffling feet.

If guests have so far managed to wriggle out of dancing at a Ceilidh, then Orcadian Strip the Willow is sure to get them on their feet. It's an insane take on one of the craziest Scottish dances - but it's incredibly fun and absolutely no one ever regrets joining in.

The barn was packed with couples end to end, all eagerly - and nervously - watching Clio & Ross as top couple kick off the mayhem, swinging their way down the line with increasing speed. And somewhere in the middle of it all was this mad wedding photographer, jumping in between flailing couples to get those all important candids. There's really no other way to get these action shots than to throw yourself right in there - and just hope that someone doesn't mistake you for their partner!  

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The First Dance (Officially)

While they may have waltzed in the wintry weather and bounced around the barn as part of the Ceilidh, Clio & Ross hadn't quite had their first dance - officially, that is. They were saving this moment - a special track that meant so much to them, not for the lyrics or the band but for a special moment early on in their relationship.

And so it was that Clio & Ross took each other by the hand, looked at each other lovingly, tenderly before absolutely rocking it out to Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar On Me.

Well played guys, well played!

A candid image of guests dancing at a wedding

How fitting a song choice for this wonderful couple, whose venue looked as if someone had poured some icing sugar on top of it just for their wedding day.

Thank you Clio & Ross, for such a perfect wedding to end my year with.

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